As with humans, dogs can experience a variety of health issues as they age. For us as their caretakers and human friends, it can be challenging to come to terms with our fluffy companion’s aging process. But the more we are prepared to identify signs and symptoms of health issues, the better quality of life Fido will have over their lifespan.
When are dogs considered to be seniors?
The average age around which dogs are considered to be seniors is seven or eight. Of course, this number depends on the size and breed of your pup. Larger breeds like the Great Dane age more rapidly than smaller breeds like the Chihuahua. While a Great Dane is considered a senior at age 5 or 6, a Chihuahua won’t enter that phase of life until somewhere around age ten to twelve.
What happens to my dog as he ages?
When your dog enters his senior years, his body and its functions begin to slow down. This process can produce a host of difficulties, some of which can be mitigated, and some of which just come with the territory.
Here are a few things you can expect with an aging dog:
1. Joint Pain and Stiffness
Inflammation and arthritis are two of the most common painful conditions elderly pooches experience. Whether it’s an old injury flaring up or the onset of a new issue, joint pain can cause a number of problems for dogs. This pain can make it difficult for them to climb stairs, jump into the car, or move around in cold weather. And when arthritis is advanced, it can make even a simple walk a painful event.
If your pup is still young, you can prevent some joint issues by feeding them a proper diet and adding supplements that serve to protect the joints, such as chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs. Once your dog has begun to experience joint-related issues, certain degrees of pain can be alleviated by anti-inflammatory or pain medication prescribed by a veterinarian.
Some dogs with arthritis are good candidates for a procedure called Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy (PRP). Read more here about how this medical treatment could benefit your senior pup, and schedule an evaluation with us at East Valley Animal Hospital in Gilbert, AZ.
2. Behavioral Changes
Your aging dog is not the active puppy he once was. Both physical and cognitive decline can lead to a different set of behaviors. Common new behaviors seen among aging dogs include confusion and disorientation, changes in responsiveness, more vocalization or restlessness, new sensitivities and anxieties, a decrease in activity and appetite, changes in their sleep cycle, and house-training issues. If you notice these problems in your aging pup, schedule an exam with your vet to ensure new changes in behavior are not linked to disease or other health conditions.
3. Age-Related Diseases
As Fido’s golden years come to a close he as at a higher risk for a number of diseases. Because of this, we recommend two routine checkups per year for healthy senior dogs—for ailing pets, this number increases. The most common disease-related health issues we see in elderly dogs are cancer, heart conditions, gastrointestinal issues, kidney problems, and dental disease. Often these diseases are undetectable by the owner or can easily be confused with health problems your pet might be facing. Veterinary exams are the best way to prevent, detect, and treat disease before it’s too late.
4. Hearing and Vision Loss
If your senior dog could talk, he would tell you: “I can’t hear or see as well as I used to.” One of the signs that hearing or vision loss is occurring in your aging pup is that he may appear to be ignoring you. He’s not. But if he can’t understand your verbal or visual commands, he won’t be able to respond as he did in the past. A dog with hearing or vision loss may also seem aggressive. If he doesn’t notice a person approaching until they touch him, he may respond with actions of self-defense.
A dog with impaired vision will bump into things and knock things over. If you suspect your dog’s vision is decreasing, verbalize as you approach slowly. As for hearing loss, one way to prepare is to train your dog with hand signals in advance. This way, he can still understand when you’re communicating with him.
Your Local Vet in Gilbert
East Valley Animal Hospital is your local vet in Gilbert, AZ. We’re pet owners, and we know how difficult it can be to watch your pet enter its senior years. That’s why our team works tirelessly and with compassion to give our four-legged patients the best quality of life possible. If you have further questions about what to expect with an aging dog, or you would like to schedule an appointment, give us a call today!